World AIDS Day: Living with HIV: Ruaidhri's journey
14 November 2016
By Ruaidhri O'Baoill
[This article originally appeared in FS Magazine, produced by GMFA]
As I get that bit older, I tend to find that more things are becoming less important and my sense of taking each day as it comes is becoming far more accessible. I have also been able to wrangle myself into a great network of gay friends which has proved far more valuable and necessary than I first imagined. Along with this maturing so has my view of HIV also changed and more importantly my view of my own diagnosis.
Looking back to the beginning, I must admit I actually didn't feel the despair or impending doom when I was first told I was HIV-positive; that happened six months later when the everyday normality of living with HIV sunk in. My struggle back then was that pretty much everything I did or every second thought I had would be in some way connected to HIV or how I felt about myself.
Although I never once for a moment wanted to, as one guy recently told me, to 'drop the whole HIV thing' I did however want to focus on other parts of my life. As soon as I invested my energy into this, things began to change. I became a lot more comfortable within my own skin and I have started to turn into a person that I am pretty happy to wake up as every morning. I suppose in some way I have to accept that living with HIV has played a considerable part in that.
Living with HIV has grounded me while also refocusing what I want from life. It has also created an opportunity to be part of something which I never thought I would be.
Through my experience so far I have been able to put my story out there in FS Magazine in the hope that it would be of some help and support to other HIV positive guys. I also wanted to raise awareness with those not living with HIV so they could possibly understand what it feels like and how they can help end stigma within the community.
Now this hasn't been the easiest. I have come up against rejections and fear which I have not always taken well. On occasions, I have allowed their stigma to get the better of me and honestly it has gotten me nowhere. I have had to train myself to understand the difference between honest ignorance or fear and outright stigma and stupidity.
This has been a great learning curve for me as I now know when I should invest in educating someone or to simply ignore it and walk away. As a result of this I have seemed to have found a sort of inner peace now with people's reaction when I tell them I have HIV. There will be people in the future that will definitely test my patience however I am pretty proud of what I have achieved over the past two years and am very much looking forward to what is around the corner!